Celtics-Wolves review: C's overcome second-quarter issues

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Celtics-Wolves review: C's overcome second-quarter issues

BOSTON The second quarter was once again one of the Boston Celtics' weaker quarters of play.

But it didn't matter much on Wednesday as the Celtics put together a strong second half surge that propelled them to a 104-94 win over Minnesota.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was pleased with his team's play overall, but would have been remiss if he didn't take note of the team once again having its problems in the second quarter.

"The second quarter was not one of our better quarters," Rivers said. "But the second half defensively was terrific."

Minnesota outscored Boston 21-20 in the second quarter. In 18 games this season, Boston has been outscored in the second quarter 13 times.

And of those five games in which they generated more points than their opponent in the second, the C's have gone on to win all five of those games.

Figuring out how to be a more effective team in the second quarter remains one of the challenges for the C's this season. Here are some other keys in tonight's game outlined prior to tip-off.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: It's not coachspeak when Doc Rivers talks about the Timberwolves as being a great rebounding team and not just a good one. They shot better than 53 percent from the field in their Tuesday night win over Philadelphia, and still had a double-digit (plus-13) advantage on the boards. Anything short of keeping the rebounding margin close could spell big trouble for the Celtics.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston did more than hold its own on the boards against the Timberwolves - they actually won the rebounding game with 45 boards compared to 41 for Minnesota. "We were pretty good," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "That's a hard team to rebound against, and we held our own."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Josh Howard: The Captain is due for a monster game after averaging 15 points and six assists in Boston's last three, two of which the C's lost. Howard earned his third start of the season on Tuesday, and came through with season-highs in points scored (16) and rebounds (10) for his first double-double of the season.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had a quietly effective game with 18 points, four rebounds and a pair of assists while Howard had 12 points and three steals but not a single rebound. "You know we're challenged rebound-wise," said Pierce who added, "and a majority of these games we haven't rebounded well so that's mainly what the last couple days of practice have been is put bodies on people, go after rebounds, box out, those little things that are going to help us win games."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Even though the Celtics split the two games Rajon Rondo missed while serving a two-game suspension, the C's ball movement was surprisingly strong in his absence. It'll be worth monitoring if they can continue to be that efficient with their ball distribution now that Rondo has returned.

WHAT WE SAW: Rondo have a very Rondo-like game with lots of assists (a game-high 11) and a decent amount of points (17 points). Rondo said it took him "two seconds" to get his rhythm back after missing the last two games while serving a two-game suspension for pushing Brooklyn's Kris Humphries.

STAT TO TRACK: Although you certainly couldn't tell in Minnesota's win over Philadelphia, 3-point shooting has been a problem for the Timberwolves this season. Despite connecting on 13-of-25 3s (52 percent) taken against the Sixers, it still remains a clear and present danger to their chances of beating the Celtics. Minnesota is shooting 30.5 percent on 3s this season which is literally at the bottom of the NBA standings (No. 30 out of 30 teams) in 3-point shooting.

WHAT WE SAW: Minnesota was launching the 3-ball once again, but didn't have nearly as much success as they did the previous night in Philadelphia. The Timberwolves were 6-for-19 shooting 3s against the Celtics, the last of which came at the game's conclusion from rookie guard Alexey Shved.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

Avery Bradley (Achilles) returning to Celtics lineup vs. Hawks

BOSTON – The wait is finally over for the Boston Celtics and Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley will return to the Celtics starting lineup tonight after having missed the previous 18 games (and 22 out of 23) with a right Achilles injury.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will play with a minutes restriction for the first week, and adjust accordingly.
 
Although Jaylen Brown has done a solid job filling in for Bradley with the first unit, Stevens had every intention of Bradley returning as a starter.
 
“He’s our starting two-guard,” Stevens said. “We started the year really well as far as that group playing together. We haven’t had that group playing together very often. Jaylen and Marcus (Smart) are both able to give us a lot off the bench as well as if we need to plug them into a (starting) lineup later on. We feel good about that.”
 
As far as handling Bradley’s minutes this week, Stevens has a very simple approach to what he needs to do.
 
“I’m just going to play him in the first couple of stints,” Stevens said. “And when his minutes run out he won’t play anymore. It is hard if you’re trying to save minutes for the end. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense with getting stiff, sitting for a long time, coming off a long lay-off.”
 
Bradley is the Celtics’ second-leading scorer at 17.7 points per game along with a team-high 6.9 rebounds. A first-team All-NBA Defender last season, Bradley is also shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from 3-point range.

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.